Jul 20, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 215: Charlotte Miller
Hometown: Dallas, TX
Current Town: Brooklyn, NY
Q: Tell me about the play you're working on at PlayPenn.
A: I'm working on a play called Raising Jo. I started writing it about 2 and a half years ago. It's about love and family and what it means to really really really be a grown up. It centers around a young couple and their unplanned pregnancy. The baby doesn't figure into the play that heavily except that it forces the adults to come together and act like adults. It follows that journey without being about parenting. I'm still a fairly green writer so this play is the first that has received this kind of love and care, I feel like I'm growing up with it as a writer, learning how to rewrite.
Q: What else are you up to?
A: I'll be back in Pennsylvania in a couple of months for this commission called The People's Light New Play Initiative at Longwood Gardens. They've commissioned a handful of playwrights to come out to the gardens, explore, and generally just let their imaginations run wild. They have lily-pads that can hold up to fifty pounds. So I only have to diet myself down to fifty pounds to realize my dream of living on a lily-pad.
Q: You're one of the playwrights in Rising Phoenix's first season of Cino Nights. Can you explain what that is? Are you as excited as I am?
A: Cino nights is modeled after this sort of raw, rapid, awesome seize the day(night) theater that Joe Cino pioneered in his Caffe in the 60s. One week of rehearsal, one performance, no rules, no expectations, very rock and roll. I am always jealous of my musician friends because they have the gig and the gig is a beautiful thing, it's practice and performance. Now I feel like I have a gig. So I am more excited than you are Adam (joking tone).
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: I am a recovering people pleaser. It was sick sick bad bad. When I was in the first grade and I had a Nazi teacher named Mrs. Roberts. This was a woman who actually sent me to ESL because she didn't think I could speak english. So one afternoon she announced that her husband was coming to visit her and while they were talking I had to pee worse than anything I had ever felt before. It was that yellow eye-ball feeling. That terrified to move, terrified to stay, no way out of this, whoops I peed my pants thing. I peed my pants rather than interrupt an adult conversation. I don't know if this explains me as a writer except to say that I write characters who have a really hard time, almost impossible time asking for what they want.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: That's a big question. It's the money thing that sticks out to me. I wish playwrights could just be playwrights. I see a lot of awesome playwrights taking on more than they can handle because of finances. It's a problem I don't know how to address. It's just overwhelming. You've interviewed a bunch of amazing playwrights and if they all had the means to produce their theater, theater in america would be boom not bust, it would be the best. If you build it they will come, but we can't afford to build anything let alone live well. At least it's honest work, to an almost absurd degree.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: Anyone who wants to do theater in this day and age is my hero.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Brave theater. Big brave theater. Long pauses, blood and guts, jazz hands... I like everything, can get excited by everything, so long as it's brave.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Write a lot. Write every chance you get. Go to the theater. Show up for the theater. You can't be a part of it unless you show up for it. Oh, and don't be precious. That's the worst. Tattoo the end of that Beckett quote to your head "Fail Better".
Q: Plugs, please:
By Charlotte Miller
Directed By Jackson Gay
Sunday July 25th @ 5pm
Adrienne Theater (Playground Space)
2030 Sansom Street
Philladelphia PA 19103
Jimmy's no. 43
43 East 7th street
December 11, 2011